Friday, September 30, 2011

Ohio or Bust

4100 miles, 50 bison, 11 states, 9 days,  2 black bears, 2 countries, and 1 tumbleweed.

leaving Cordova on the ferry

otters floating in Prince William Sound

Worthington Glacier

Driving north on the Richardson Highway, AK

Fall along the ALCAN highway

Drunken electric polls near Northway

Permafrost affects everything up here

my truck all loaded and ready to go

self portrait at the Alaska/Yukon border

Beautiful Yukon

Hunter, my travel companion, taking a snooze on my lap

wild bison near Watson Lake, Yukon

bison in the Yukon

Liard Hot Springs, Yukon

Sleeping in the back of my truck along the way
Roosevelt National Park, ND

Roosevelt National Park, ND

Roosevelt National Park, ND

Tuckered Hunter

Ah, Ohio


4100 miles, exactly.  Final destination: Ohio.  Visiting the fam here for a week or so then I'm off again, heading south and east to North Carolina.  Next adventure, SAILING!

Friday, September 23, 2011


You've heard of P.O.W., right?  Prisoner of Whittier.  A term used when you could only leave Whittier once a week by throwing your car on the train.  This was back in the day, about 10 years ago, of driver licenses valid without photo because Whittier didn't have a camera.  But, now days, you can drive though that tunnel and into Whittier any old time you want, between the hours of 6 AM and 10 PM.
Cordova, on the other hand, you cannot drive to any old time you want. Or, anytime for that matter. Not only does our 52 mile of road not connect anywhere, but currently, there is a bridge out at 36 mile and is as far as you can go.  No, we rely on plane or ferry to escape.
We have this new fast ferry, and she's a beaut.  Will take you to the other side of the Sound at 37 knots in 3 hours.  But, she has these nice weather limits.  Weather usually isn't nice this time of year.  She didn't run for three days last week leaving folk stuck on both sides.  Waiting to get in and waiting to get out.  Shops were closed or had shortened hours.  The hair dresser didn't make it back and I had to run around town with my uneven hair cut for one more week (but that, really, is neither here nor there)
My own ferry escape was all planned for Wednesday, Sept 21.  Monday's forecast was for a 50 knot blow.
I spend the weekend schlepping my shit through rain and wind, packing up the truck.  Sunday gave me a break in the weather and made it hard to believe it was to blow 50 the next day.  But, blow it did.  Gusts to 65, actually.  Rain.  Wind.  Repeat.
It was supposed to come down on Tuesday and be blue birds by Wednesday, escape day. I finished packing in the rain.  Nothing like packing wet bags and boxes for a 4000  mile road trip.
Then the rain really came down. I mean, it didn't just rain cats and dogs, it rained elephants and hippos.  The cap on my truck started to leak.  Now my wet stuff was getting even wetter.  Nothing like starting a 4000 miles road trip with a cap that leaks.
And it blew. All day Tuesday and all night Tuesday.
The wind woke me up about 3 Am. It sounded like a freight trian coming through the cabin.  A freight train that was going to take the roof right off!  As I lay awake in bed, I kept thinking that I needed to get back to sleep.  I start my 4000 mile road trip from Cordova, Ak to Ohio tomorrow.  Then the other part of my kept thinking, I can lay awake here all night and it doesn't matter.  There is no way the ferry is going to leave.  Then it would calm down and get real quiet.  I'd think, maybe I can leave tomorrow.  It's been quiet for about 20 minutes now.  Blamo, the freight train would come back.
5:45 AM.  My alarm goes off.  I have  a few more things to do, like finish this blog and a few more things to gather up, like my cat, Hunter.  I find outmy fate, whether I can leave today or not, in 15 minutes when the ferry terminal opens up. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Salmon season 2011 recap

I started fishing this year May 15th, give or take.  The reds came in like gang-busters here on the Copper River.  The price stayed OK.  It started around $3.65/5.50lb for reds and kings and ended about $1.60 for reds.  Silvers were about $1.30, which is a pretty good price for silvers.  When I fished my own boat, silvers were 25 cents a pound.  (Ever notice that keyboards don’t have a “cent” sign anymore?  Have to spell it out these days.  Sign of the times?)

Anyway, it was kind of a funny season.  The chums never really did show up much in the Sound (Prince William Sound), the reds died off early.  The silvers were late and small, but I hear now that it’s blowing 50 out there and the buyers are all packing up, they are finally showing in their 10-12 lb average.  I could see a handful of boats fishing silvers at Ester in the Sound when I was on the ferry last week.  I guess a guy could scrape up a few if he didn’t mind also picking dark toothed humpies.

My highlights of the season were the 50lb king we caught gillnetting, heading to McCarthy, for a writer’s conference and performing last weekend at Kenai Fisher Poets, 2011. The Peninsula Clarion wrote a great article about it with a YouTube clip:  I’m at the very end.

As for me, I’m a short-timer here in the ‘dova. No more driving into town like yesterday when a little black bear ran out in front of me, then I had to stop at the city airport because the road runs right next to the runway and a helicopter was landing.  After that, I drove out the road and a moose jumped out and trotted down the road in front of me for a good minute! No, I won't be seeing things like that this winter.

 Last month, I sold Large Marge the Land Barge, my 1988 24’ camper that I called home for the past 5 months.  Got rid of a bunch of stuff, rented out my condo in Anchorage and am packing up the truck.  I take off next week for a 4000 mile road trip from Valdez to Ohio with my cat, Hunter.  I’ll drive through the Yukon hitting hot springs and camping along the way. The B.C and Alberta where I plan to hike a bit around Jasper Nation Park then drop down into Montana, and east to Ohio from there.  I have friends along the way that I can stop and visit once I get back to the states.

From Ohio, it’s down to North Carolina where Vince’s boat is waiting for us.  We’ll (as in he’ll) work on it a bit then sail it south along the Intra-Coastal Waterways into Florida then over to the Bahamas for the winter.  It will be a great trip and I’m really looking forward to it and to warmth and sunshine!  Vince, though, is worried that I won’t regard him as skipper and take his orders.  I said sure I’ll take your orders!  What would you like a short or tall?  More ice?  How would you like your steak cooked?  He just mumbled something about mutineers walking the plank and rolled his eyes.

So stay tuned!  Now that the fishing season is done the adventure really begins because here at PickFish Tales, it ain’t all about fishing…….

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kenai Fisher Poets

Break, break.  I have a mid-week report.

Jumpers off the port bow and Fisher Poets in Kenai.  Check it out!  I'm all the tale end of the YouTube video.

The rhymes of the mariners | Peninsula Clarion

Rich King, me, Steve Schoonmaker, Meezie Hermansen, & Pat Dixon

Friday, September 9, 2011

The fat lady has done sung

Typically, this time of year, silvers are just starting to wind down, but this year, silvers never really materialized.  The fat lady has done sung. 

It was a weird season.  Reds came in like gangbusters.  Come mid July, it was like someone shut off a faucet.  Silvers never really showed but.  Then it blew.  And I don’t mean some namby-pamby little blow.  I mean, it blew.  It was just like my dad’s favorite saying “the wind blew, shit flew, and no one could see for an hour or two.” 

It started blowing last Friday, it blew an obnoxious 30-45knots through the weekend.  Nothing super bad, but bad enough to make going outside not much fun.  This, it got serious or as we say, it got nautical.  Hurricane force winds.   70.  Gusts to 70 miles per hour. For. Three. Days.    That, folks, is foul.  No one could sleep, no one could leave.  Tenders got stuck down east then didn’t even buy fish because they knew they couldn’t get back.  The ferry was cancelled for three days.  Israeli tourist had to abandon their tour guide.  Volleyball teams were stuck here and had to transfer school districts.  I couldn’t get my uneven hair cut fixed because the hair dresser was out of town, stuck, waiting for the ferry. 

Just like Jimmy Buffett, I shot three holes in my freezer with cabin fever.  And it’s only September!  But not long now and I’ll be able to make my escape.   I head over to Kenai to perform at the Kenai Fisher Poets Gathering Friday and Saturday, 7-10 and Sunday, 2-?.  After that, my 4000 mile road trip through Canada.  Stay tuned!  In the mean time, eat fish!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Labor Day Edition

In honor of Labor Day, this week’s blog post is the Labor Day Edition.

But, before I begin, I have to let you know that Vince’s boat S/V Flight Plan survived Irene just fine and our plans of sailing through the Intracoastal Waterways and the Bahamas are still on.  Though there was a lot of damage on the east coast, I’m glad for everyone’s sake it wasn’t worse.  Now back to the regularly scheduled blog post.

According to Wikipedia, the origins of Labor Day can be traced back to Canada when a parade was staged to support the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58 hour workweek back in December of 1872.  The first Labor Day in the US was observed September 5, 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York City. It became a federal holiday in 1894 following the deaths of a number of workers during the Pullman Strike. The legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike for fear of further conflict.  Congress unanimously (can you imagine Congress being unanimous these days?) signed the law to make Labor Day a national holiday.  All states, territories, and the District of Columbia have made it a statutory holiday.

The form of celebration originally outlined in the first proposal of the holiday was a street parade to exhibit “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” followed by a festival.  

The strength and spirit of fishermen, I could write to the moon and back on that one, but I want to hear from you, dear reader.  Please share your stories of fishermen’s strength and spirit.  Ok, I’ll start us off.  

The story that comes to mind happened back in May of 1998 when I worked aboard the F/V Triton (aka the Tritanic for it's constant various stages of sinking).  The Triton is a 74’ 1947 WWII Surplus Scow that has been converted to a salmon tender. 

Triton circa 1998

She works the Flats of the Copper River, Alaska.  In ’98 she was owned by Jeff Stonehill (who currently has a new book out, THE LAST GREAT WILD WEST SHOW and Jeff Thelan was the skipper.  Kim and I were crew, along with Jeff’s brother Kent, who is no longer with us. 

Tendering on the Flats can be described as hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.  The terror being bar crossings.  Here we got our asses kicked coming out of Kokinhenik when it was blowing straight southerly with 18’ seas, but that’s a story for another time.

Jeff and the state of the deck after coming out of Kokinhenik Bar, 6/98

This story is how we fought the boredom of being on anchor hours and hours waiting for fishermen to deliver their catch.  All the Egg Island tenders anchor in the same spot and are all clustered together, making them an easy target for the Aqua Sling.  The Aqua Sling is an ingenious way of firing off water balloons.  This baby will shoot them way farther than you can ever conceive throwing them.  I bet you could launch a balloon hundreds of feet, so long as it wasn’t too full of water, like the ones we were launching. 

Kim, Kent, and Jeff launching water balloons

A crew member of the Lady Samantha has hopped into his survival suit and swam over to the Triton in hopes of stealing our Aqua Sling and using it against us.  Well, it’s not hard to spot a bright orange suit in the water, and we busted him.  In retaliation, we bombed them with more water balloons.  I was shooting them off, left and right, while honing in on my aim.  Well, I got a little too accurate and accidentally busted out the cabin window of the Lady Sam.  Poor Jerry, the skipper, just about shit his pants since he was sitting right there when it hit.  In hind sight, I’m really glad that window was closed!

Anyway, other than a shattered window, there wasn’t any real damage.  Luckily, it didn’t take out any of his electronics or, more importantly,  his head.  But Jerry, who is pretty laid back, as most fishermen are who have been around the block as many times as he.  Having experienced all sorts of everything, he just shrugged it off stating “That’s what insurance is for, besides, boys will be boys”.  But I wonder if he knew it was a girl who busted out his window.  Sorry Jerry.

Your turn.  I'd love to hear your story. You can post it in the comment section.